This Week, I Read… (2017 #49)

181 - Caught Up In Us

#181 – Caught Up in Us, by Lauren Blakely

First up: formatting/editing issues. There was a noticeable lack of quotation marks and/or italics where appropriate–song titles should be in quotes (and there were a lot of them), and statements made within the narrative but not in dialogue should be either in quotes or italicized (ie, this outfit shouted “I’m looking to get laid”, or this outfit shouted I’m looking to get laid.) I was surprised to find such a systemic issue from a major author.

So, setting that aside, this was a second-chance/workplace romance, and I think it succeeded at the office shenanigans while failing spectacularly at the second-chance aspect. We do get a little bit of the backstory from five years ago, but the relationship ended when the guy ghosted the girl–no contact or explanation whatsoever–and then they’re thrown together in a mentor/student relationship as part of one of her business classes.

All we hear is that she loved him so much and she was so heartbroken and they had such a connection–but five years have passed, and they hadn’t known each other all that well before, since it was just a summer romance, plus the age difference was borderline inappropriate at 17 and 23–even though our heroine takes pains to tell us there was only fooling around, no real sex, I’m still not fully on board with that gap.

In the end, I just don’t see the instant reconnection as anything but lust (which it is, and how) and that makes the story fall flat.

182 - Parable of the Sower

#182 – Parable of the Sower, by Octavia E. Butler

  • Read: 12/22/17 – 12/23/17
  • Challenge: Crash Course Literature Season 4
  • Rating: 4/5 stars

Compelling, difficult to put down. Rather than a single cataclysmic event turning America into a post-apocalyptic nightmare, this story tells of a slow apocalypse driven by climate change, governmental apathy, mob rule and drug-induced mayhem. When the police and firefighters can’t be relied upon, trusted, or paid for, everyone has to scramble to find ways of protecting themselves, or succumb to the unchecked violence in the streets.

In the midst of all this, one young black woman writes everything down of her life, the struggles of her family, and somehow manages to “discover” a new religion, which she calls Earthseed. God is Change. Learn to shape God.

So it became, to me, an interesting blend of post-apoc fiction and Dune. The strangest thing for me was, I could almost get behind the religion of Earthseed. In a world where it was real, I could see myself becoming a believer. Given that I am not a particularly spiritual person, this book was an interesting journey for me.

I felt, however, that it ended abruptly. I know the sequel will continue the story, and that reaching Bankole’s property in order to found an Earthseed community there is a natural stopping point–but the end really was just, they show up, find out his family are dead, wait a few days to see if the police will investigate, then have a funeral and the book’s over. It ran by quickly and without much weight, considering the gravity of what Lauren wants them to become.

183 - The Long War

#184 – The Long War, by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter

It’s been over a year since I read The Long Earth, and as excited as I was to finally read this, it didn’t come anywhere close to as mind-blowing as its predecessor did for me.

I can only blame myself for any small details I forgot, but War did little to remind me. I felt more connected to the new characters than the returning ones, because I’d apparently forgotten about what little personality they had been given originally. Joshua was a passive protagonist, getting dragged into his adventures by forces beyond his control–I liked Maggie, the captain of the military twain, much better. At least she did interesting things and made interesting choices.

But even that wasn’t enough. I went back to reread my glowing review of The Long Earth, and found that I was so impressed by the relative originality of the concept that I didn’t once mention any of the characters. And here in the second book, the concept isn’t new anymore, and the excitement of it didn’t carry me along, so all I had were the characters–who were flat and unmemorable.

184 - American Vampire

#184 – American Vampire, by Jennifer Armintrout

This was fun but not amazing. I’m a fan of Jenny Trout’s later works, and finding one of her early novels in a pile at a used book sale was a nice treat, but for someone used to the cleaner, more polished The Boss series, this really can’t compare. It made me laugh and I’m glad I read it, but I’m not keeping it to reread.

185 - Man Hunting

#185 – Man Hunting, by Jennifer Crusie

The romance was cute and kept me engaged, but the prose style irked me. Not only were there long passages of Talking Heads, even within those, the dialogue was egregiously over-tagged. “Said” might not be dead, but if every single line ends Katie said or Jessie said, even when it’s perfectly clear who is speaking…I had to grit my teeth from time to time.

But it was a fun story about an improbable spark between a career-driven woman who’s lonely for love and a commitment-shy man who has convinced himself he’s happier being alone and doing nothing but relaxing in a simple job. They snipe at each other more than they talk, punctuated by oddly comfortable silences where they grow closer, only to fight again. Sometimes the dialogue is a bit unbelievable, and some of the references are incredibly dated (I hadn’t realized until I checked the front that this was published in 1993) but once I understood my time frame, the Yuppie factor made more sense.

I actually loved the ending, with Jake taking his sweet time to make a choice, but then going full throttle to reorder his life to fit Kate into it. That definitely made up for some of the weaker points in the story.

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